Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

British Schools Score Champions

Saturday, October 13th, 2018

Today we were down at the British Schools Orienteering Association Score Champs, taking place at Moors Valley Country Park. It was a lovely day to be out in the forest (particularly compared with Friday’s weather). This was the first score event that Emma and Duncan have done on their own and the game plan was simply for them to head around the loop of white-standard controls, picking up a few others on their way. They both executed on this and, despite (or perhaps because) of being back well inside the 45-minute time limit, won their respective courses. (Duncan ran up as the event starts at Year 5.) Prizes were presented by Gillian Cross, author of the Demon Headmaster series, and member of the organising club. Results and more pictures can be seen on the British Schools Orienteering Association website. We won’t be travelling up to the non-score Champs in Blackburn later this year but nearby BADO are due to host the event in 2019…

Birthday Hash

Monday, October 8th, 2018

Lest this blog become entirely about technology: it was Duncan’s 9th birthday last week. His party took place the weekend before and, given it was up at Farley Mount and all outdoors, the weather was very kind to us. Emma and I laid out a hash whilst Christine and Duncan waited for ‘the boys’ to arrive. We returned to find a game of capture the flag (a Cub favourite) well underway.

Having laid the hash was a good excuse to stay behind and mind the lunch whilst everyone else disappeared off into the woods. Thankfully they all returned again about half an hour later although I could still hear them for about half that time! In the meantime, I’d started frying for the bacon sarnies. I was cooking on gas but the plan was to light a fire in the site’s barbecue grill so that they could toast marshmallows for s’mores. Christine had even bought a flint and steel and, with copious quantities of cotton wool, they did eventually get a fire going. This was quite something given the trouble I then had just trying to light the candles on the cake (with a match I hasten to add). Christine had lots of other activities planned but they seemed happy to round things off with another game of capture the flag.

When the day itself came it was fairly uneventful. Emma gets lots of enjoyment from just watching other people open presents and, given she leaves for school before Duncan gets out of bed these days, he was kind enough to wait until they’d both got back from school. Duncan had a week off football so that things weren’t quite as manic as usual but, after a birthday tea (where, as you can see, he only got the leftovers of his cake from the party!) he and Christine then headed out to Cubs as usual.

Hursley 10k

Sunday, September 16th, 2018

It was Christine’s turn to run the Hursley 10k this year so the rest of us went along to spectate (Emma is always keen when there’s prospect of a cake stall!). There was lots of Eastleigh Running Club orange out for us to cheer on. As you’d expect given the location, there were also a few IBMers although, looking at the results, I also failed to spot many I should have seen.

On Christine’s return, I raced off for a quick run (a chance to knock out the September Challenge). It took longer than I anticipated but I made it back just in time to see Duncan cross the line in the KS2 race. He seemed pleased with his run. It’s just a shame that it’s another four years before Emma is allowed to take part in any of the races again.

More photos on Flickr.

Bursledon Bricks and Mill

Sunday, September 9th, 2018

As part of this year’s Heritage Open Days we went along to Bursledon Brickworks (actually on the Swanwick side of the river for the pedants). We started with a ride on the narrow gauge railway although the particular specimen on show today wasn’t anything to write home about. We then went in search of one of the ‘heritage’ buses that was meant to be running to the windmill. There were several buses parked up in the courtyard but none moving and when I was asked whether I was ‘interested in buses’ we retreated to the brickworks itself.

The museum itself is quite well done, at least in parts (it has had significant lottery money spent on it). The site was still operational until the early seventies when it was cleaved in two by the M27. The steam workings are still operational although not making bricks (and the steam was being generated by a very modern looking boiler). Following on from my earlier rant, the children were given a quiz that required them to actually read the signs AND we didn’t have to pay for a pencil (I’m looking at you English Heritage!). The prize was a few old pennies to spend in the arcade which they enjoye. There was also an interesting display on the brickworks’ predecessor in Chandler’s Ford.

We tried to get on the one o’clock bus to Bursledon Windmill but it was already full. This gave the children a chance to make clay bricks by hand though. They brought them home although they’ll take 2-3 weeks to fully dry out. After a spot of lunch we made it on the two o’clock bus (just) but when we arrived at the windmill we were told that the tours were full for the rest of the day. We took a quick look round outside and then got another bus back to the car. We’ll have to decide whether to return another weekend to (pay and) see inside.

All in all, it was a reasonable way to spend a few hours and, given both sites are staffed by volunteers, one shouldn’t grumble too much about the lack of organisation. If you’re at a loose end next weekend then there are lots more attractions open across the UK and, if you’re local, particularly in the Winchester area.

Double Celebration Weekend

Sunday, September 2nd, 2018

This weekend we were signed up for a double-header of orienteering. On Saturday it was the British Sprint Champs at Bath University. We were there early as Christine’s parents were running the local parkrun and returning the children to us beforehand. The first-class sports facilities at the University made an excellent assembly area for the event. We had mixed fortunes in the heats. Christine and I made it through to the A finals but both the children were disqualified for wrong controls (it was a tricky area to plan easy courses on). Christine was fourth in her final and Duncan managed a first in his B final. I faired less well making one bad route choice through the multi-level section and losing my head completely on a later leg.

We spent the night in Glastonbury and had a nice dinner out at Tamburino’s in Street. On Sunday it was the Middle Distance Champs at Stock Hill near Wells. Despite a panic whilst we tried to find where Duncan’s SI card had ended up (down the back of his car seat!) we arrived in plenty of time for Christine’s start. Duncan had a good run on M10, finishing 7th. Emma was 8th on W12 although in a smaller field. She made a 10 minute error on one control though on what looked like a tricky orange course. I also managed 8th place despite making several blunders – not surprising given that I wasn’t really reading any of the contour detail on the map!

Christine had the start performance: a place on the podium and a silver medal. And the double celebration? It was also our wedding anniversary!

(Sprint photos courtesy of Gerry Ashton.)

Not so sunny Severn Half

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

On Sunday both Christine and I lined up at the start of the Severn Bridge Half Marathon in the pouring rain. We had free entries as a consequence of Christine’s parents helping and neither of us had done anything in the way of preparation. In my case, I’d also had some stomach bug for the proceeding three days. As a consequence, I really had no idea how I’d do, or even whether I’d finish.

The race starts at the Welsh end of the bridge, heads over to England where it does a loop in the country lanes before returning back over the bridge. I felt okay at the start and my pace was forced a little by a feeling that I should be ahead of the guy pushing the running buggy (although he was aiming for under 90 mins). I fell in behind a runner from the local club who, it seemed, was aiming for negative splits as the pace picked up when we passed through the halfway point.

That said, when we arrived at the bridge again, I was still feeling pretty good and left him behind as I realised that I might just be able to make it back in under 1:25. As the results show, clock time was 1:24:54 with three seconds less on the chip. Not a PB by any means but still much better than I was expecting when I set off. Christine was also pleased with her time having come in well under 1:45. Comparing with her medal from last year, someone appears to have added a sun above the bridge this year – something we certainly didn’t see all day! The children seemed to have enjoyed their time on banana duty though despite getting soaked through their waterproofs!

Back to Blighty

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

Despite our elongated stay in the Alps, we still had one more night in France, allowing us to break up the drive back. I’d randomly picked some place off Booking.com for its proximity to the A6. The quoted distance must have been as the crow flies though because it was quite some trek along scenic rural lanes before we arrived in L’Isle sur Serein. I’m not convinced that the hotel had seen our booking before we tried to check-in but we were shown to a very nice two-floor apartment across the road. The restaurant was not serving so, rather than go in search of civilization, we utilized the pizza van parked in the town square, watched by the proprietors of the hotel, sat outside drinking with their friends. All a bit surreal but there was a nice breakfast provided the next morning.

The final leg of the journey we broke with a stop in Versaille. Christine and I had been before but many years ago. I have to say that I was somewhat disappointed by the palace grounds. Only three of the fountains were in operation leaving not much but some tall hedges and dubious sculptures. Perhaps this was due to the dry summer but no explanation was offered. As it was a Friday, we had to pay an extra €7 each for the privilege of the ‘musical gardens’. This appeared to consist solely of classical music being piped out of speakers hidden in the occasional bush.

The ticket price does cover a lot more though and, in the end, it was a bit of a race back to Le Havre (followed by a long queue at passport control). The return overnight channel crossing was equally uneventful and we arrived back in Blighty tired but in plenty of time for Emma to make her Saturday morning swimming lesson!

A week in the Alps

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018

We arrived at our final destination, Camping des Dômes de Miage on the outskirts of Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, just in time to put up the tent before the rain arrived. Conveniently, we were very close to where Christine’s cousin and her family had their campervan (perhaps not a complete coincidence as we appeared to be in something of a British aisle).

The forecast wasn’t great for our first day. We set off up the hillside behind the campsite all the same but retreated after having lunch sheltered under a pine tree from the rain watched by a bull! After a night of heavy rain, things were looking up the next day and we all took the cable car up to Mont d’Arbois. From there, we ascended Mont Joly (2525m). The cloud even parted briefly at the summit so that we could catch a glimpse of Mont Blanc across the valley. It was a long trudge back down the hill to the campsite and we vowed to buy a return next time!

The next day we headed to La Gruvaz on the other side of the valley and walked up to Refuge de Miage. The refuge itself was packed inside and out with people enjoying their Saturday lunchtime. Christine went for a walk further up what is a lovely Alpine valley while I watched the children fail to divert the course of the river! Duncan and Christine took a detour on the return leg to take in Mont Truc (1811m). We had a dip in the swimming lake at Les Contamines before returning to the tent.

We attacked the plateau from the other side on Sunday by driving round to Les Houches and getting the cable car up to Le Prarion from where it was a short walk to the summit (1969m). This offered a stunning 360° panorama of the Mont Blanc Massif (which I singularly failed to capture on camera despite multiple attempts).

We took a slightly circuitous route down to Col de Voza where the Tramway du Mont Blanc passes through as does the Tour du Mont Blanc.  The latter was of particular interest as it is only a couple of weeks until the UTMB kicks off. The valley was full of advertising and there were even a few fit looking types starting to appear on the campsite. As promised earlier in the week, this time we took the cable car back down from Bellevue.

The rain had returned on Monday and we just hung around the valley. Christine took the children to St Gervais’ shiny new swimming pool whilst I went for a long run. It was meant to be wet again the following day but actually turned out fine. We drove up to Notre Dame de la Gorge and then went for a short walk to see some of the falls.

That evening’s entertainment was provided by me locking the keys in the car whilst trying to improvise a washing line at the campsite. Thankfully their retrieval was covered by our European breakdown cover and we only had to wait an hour or so for someone to come out. The key was sat on the parcel shelf so, having air-bagged the door ajar, he set about fishing for it with a long piece of wire – no mean feat given the key didn’t even have a ring on it. Have successfully retrieved it, that just left the rather brutal task of bending the car door back into shape!

We made a last-minute decision to extend our stay by one more night. We took the cable car again, this time from La Gorge and on up to Signal. From there it is a short walk to Col du Joly. Whatever sense of remoteness you may have still been left with after leaving all the ski/MTB paraphernalia behind was entirely wiped away by the car park at the top (there is a tarmac road up from the other side of the ridge). The children got a chance to spend some money in the tat shops on our way back through Les Contamines and it meant we could put off packing up the tent for one more day…